Serenity (2005)

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Released 8-Feb-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Deleted Scenes-+/- Director's Commentary
Outtakes
Featurette-Future History -The Story of Earth That Was
Featurette-What's In A Firefly
Introduction-Joss Whedon (Writer/Director)
Audio Commentary-Joss Whedon (Writer/Director)
Featurette-A Filmmakers Journey
Featurette-Re-lighting The Firefly
Interviews-Crew-Joss Whedon Q & A Session in Sydney
Additional Footage-Extended Scenes
Featurette-Take A Walk On Serenity
Featurette-The Green Clan
Reversible Cover-+/- Ratings Logos
Easter Egg
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 114:00 (Case: 118)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (79:14)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joss Whedon
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Nathan Fillion
Gina Torres
Alan Tudyk
Morena Baccarin
Adam Baldwin
Jewel Staite
Sean Maher
Summer Glau
Ron Glass
Chiwetel Ejiofor
David Krumholtz
Michael Hitchcock
Sarah Paulson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $29.95 Music David Newman
Andrew Dorfman
Peter Gilstrap


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
Hungarian
Dutch
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the future, as Earth's inhabitants outgrow their home and venture into space seeking new worlds to populate, an Alliance is formed between Earth's two main superpowers, the United States and China, to govern the new territories. Those territories that resist the Alliance's control are quashed in a bloody war that claims many lives and causes many of those that remain to question the Alliance's intentions. One of which is Mal, a veteran of the war who now captains his own freighter, Serenity, using it to carry out lucrative missions such as smuggling, robbery and the like.

    Mal's simple existence of living from one heist to the next is turned upside down when one of his young crewmembers is rescued from ghastly experimentation at the hands of the Alliance. The young girl, River (Summer Glau) is purported to be a psychic and now has the Alliance in hot pursuit because she is known to have been in the company of some high-ranking politicians. What information did she intercept that has the Alliance so concerned? Surely such a small girl couldn't cripple a huge empire. The Alliance dispatches their most ruthless, yet gentlemanly agent to hunt down the ship Serenity at all costs.

    Serenity's captain, Mal (Nathan Fillion), strikes me as a cross between Han Solo and Dr Who. He's a flawed character, but they are endearing flaws that give him superb humility and believability. This is the kind of captain that makes a decision and sticks with it, so you'd better not get in his way. The remaining crew of Serenity are an eclectic bunch that are equally endearing, particularly Inara (Moreena Baccarin). Inara's career as a companion isn't particularly well developed in the film, so this is one aspect of the story that would benefit from some familiarity with the television series. Otherwise, the film stands quite well on its own.

    I should explain that Serenity actually began its life as a short-lived television series on Fox, called Firefly. Both Serenity and Firefly are the brainchild of Joss Whedon, the man behind television staples Buffy and it's spinoff Angel, not to mention movies such as Toy Story. Although the Firefly series was cancelled before the credits rolled on episode six, it received a successful DVD release and has garnered quite a cult following. I have a personal bombshell to drop and I'm going to do it here, so you'd best look away if you're one of those one-eyed Joss Whedon sycophants. I don't particularly like Buffy or Angel. I find them about as enticing as a daytime soap at best, so to say I was initially reluctant to see Serenity is an understatement. Firefly came and went and I couldn't have cared less, but it was at the insistence of some of my like-minded sci-fi loving friends that I gave in and approached Serenity with the lowest of expectations. On my first viewing, I was blown away. This film has the ultimate blend of heart-pounding action and effects, combined with the most believable human characters and intelligent dialogue. My friends were right! What was I thinking?

    If you're interested in the television series Firefly and how the series came to be cancelled, I strongly suggest you read the review by my colleague TonyR here. Tony is much more learned in the history of the series than I am, and he summarises the characters and story arc of the series very well. After seeing Serenity and reading Tony's review of the series, I'm determined to see it as soon as I can.

    Will there be a sequel to Serenity? Considering the film's disappointing take at the box office and Whedon's current commitment to Wonder Woman the future is unclear, although in my opinion Serenity certainly deserves at least one follow-up. A bigger budget and a faithful continuation of the saga would be fantastic to see.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    Serenity has been transferred to DVD in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This is a pretty good presentation for a recent film, but it's certainly not outstanding.

    The image is sharp and clear during common scenes with close-ups, however distant angles are not nearly as crisp. Shadow detail is murky at best, and is marred by persistent grain (see below). The depth of black in the image is surprisingly good when it needs to be. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    A significant amount of colour grading has been performed in post production, increasing colour contrast in some scenes and giving the film an undersaturated, cold appearance in others. Other scenes are dominated by a strong sepia tone. I didn't notice any colour rendering inconsistencies or bleeding in the image.

    MPEG compression artefacts are completely absent. As you would expect of such a recent production, film artefacts such as dust and dirt are also kept under control. One thing that did strike me was the degree of film grain that washes over the image intermittently, particularly during darker scenes. I also noted some mild telecine wobble during the closing credits.

    Edge enhancement is visible, most often around character's faces. The white haloing is rather distracting I found, but on a smaller display it seems to be less pronounced.

    I viewed a fair portion of the film with the English subtitles activated and found them to be accurate to the spoken word and easy to read.

    Disc one is dual layered (DVD9 formatted), with the layer transition placed during the feature at 79:14. This is a relatively still moment between lines of dialogue, and should pass by unnoticed by most viewers.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks included, one of which is an audio commentary by Director Joss Whedon. The default soundtrack is the film's original English language, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s). A Hungarian equivalent is also included.

    The English dialogue is always distinct in the audio mix and is not overpowered by effects or score. The ADR quality is very good and is mixed seamlessly. Audio sync is perfect.

    The surround channels are utilised for all manner of effects from subtle atmospherics to loud passing vehicles and explosions. The rear channels are also used to carry the soundtrack score. Voices are generally confined to the front sound stage and rarely stray to the rears.

    While there is a pleasing degree of depth to the audio, I couldn't help feeling that such an active soundtrack might be better served by a higher bitrate. 384Kb/s is a little flimsy in audio terms.

    I was particularly impressed by the score by David Newman, which often employs a rich, earthy, acoustic feel to contrast the futuristic technology of the film.

    The LFE channel is employed very well to add bottom end to the film's effects and score. Passing ships, explosions and weaponry all benefit from subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a good selection of bonus material that covers many aspects of the production. The extra features on disc one are presented in widescreen, however none are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc One

Menu

    A language select menu loads first, followed by obligatory anti-piracy propaganda. The menu pages are all 16x9 enhanced and include audio clips from the film. Playback of the feature begins automatically after two rotations of the main menu.

Deleted Scenes (9)

    There are a few interesting scene extensions here and it is easy to see why they were trimmed. There is a play all function and each has an optional Director commentary.

Outtakes (6:04)

    A succession of prop malfunctions and dialogue bungles.

Featurette- Future History: The Earth That Was (4:33)

    Joss Whedon explains a little of the film's back story and his intentions as far as themes are concerned.

Featurette- What's In A Firefly (6:34)

    Whedon and several other crew members discuss one of the key chase scenes in detail, followed by a walk through the film's effects.

Featurette- Re-Lighting The Firefly (9:41)

    The demise of Firefly is touched upon, as well as Joss's tenacity for the concept. Then this featurette follows the cast to the San Diego Comic-Con where they confront a legion of Firefly fans. Some clips from the original television series are included.

Featurette- Introduction By Joss Whedon (3:55)

    "This movie should not exist" says Whedon, as he explains his deep love for the story and the film. This introduction appears to have been intended for an early cut of the film because Joss apologises for it being incomplete.

Featurette- A Filmmaker's Journey (19:52)

    This covers the script writing process, rehearsals and the unique interaction between the cast and Director. Joss explains the fundamental differences between making a TV series and a feature film. We also see a very flexible Summer Glau in training for her impressive action scenes.

Audio Commentary- Joss Whedon (Writer / Director)

    Joss shares some anecdotes from the film's production and explains several of the storytelling tricks that were employed in the editing stage. Joss is an interesting speaker and there are virtually no lengthy pauses or boring moments in this commentary.

Easter Egg (1:38)

    A closer look at the Fruity Oaty Bars commercial that plays such an important role in the film. This egg can be found (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) on the main menu by highlighting the play button and pressing the left arrow on your remote.

Disc Two

    The contents of disc two are 16x9 enhanced and include language options in French and Dutch.

Interview- Joss Whedon Q & A Session (55:40)

    Filmed at Fox Studios in Sydney, this is an organised fan gathering in which a packed auditorium was given the opportunity to fire a myriad of questions at the creator. This footage is well presented, but is unedited, so to a casual viewer like myself there is a lot of flab that could have easily been trimmed to make this feature more condensed. Joss passes on many questions, citing a pending sequel, which becomes repetitive and a little frustrating. However, there are a lot of great questions from the fans that do manage to make this lengthy piece worth viewing.

Extended Scenes (4)

    These are familiar scenes from the film, only slightly lengthened by additional dialogue.

Featurette- Take A Walk On Serenity (4:05)

    Joss and some members of the cast take us on a tour through the ship Serenity.

Featurette- The Green Clan (3:05)

    This short piece looks at Director of Photography Jack Green and his family, who all worked on the film.

Reversible Cover Slick

    The reverse side of the slick is identical, but omits the annoying ratings logos.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 missed out on:

    An HD-DVD release is available in Region 1, and has received favourable reviews of the video quality.

    At the time of writing, this title has been available in Region 4 for some time. I've seen it retailing for under fifteen dollars, so if you're considering a purchase be sure to check the bargain bins.

Summary

    Serenity is an excellent film, filled with nail-biting action and superb performances. If you enjoy intelligently written science fiction, this is a must.

    The video transfer is good.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras are extensive and relevant to the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Friday, July 28, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Yay for reversible cover slick -
Great film - REPLY POSTED
"Intelligently written science-fiction?" - UberAspie REPLY POSTED
Q & A - Le Messor (bio logy class)
UberAspie - there had to be one -
Boring trash -
New US Special Edition -